Sunday, 25 April 2021

Russian tourists to return to Egypt next month, 1 mn visitors could land this year

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Good morning, wonderful people, and welcome to what we hope will be a nice, light workday for all of you. It was meant to be a holiday, so your calendars should all be reasonably clear, right? Also: It’s day 13 of Ramadan, so for those of us observing, we’re nearly at the half-way mark.

Thursday is a day off for the private sector in observance of Sinai Liberation Day, Manpower Minister Mohamed Saafan confirmed yesterday. EGX will be closed, according to a statement, and our friends in the banking industry will also be off. Cabinet said on Thursday that today’s holiday would be observed at the end of the week instead.

We still have no idea what’s up with Coptic Easter or Sham El Nessim. Easter falls this year on 2 May. It’s not a national holiday, but banks and the EGX have traditionally taken it as a day off. Sham El Nessim is the day after and is a national holiday. Neither the CBE nor the EGX has yet made an announcement about Easter, while Cabinet Spokesman Nader Saad told Al Shorouk on Thursday that Cabinet hasn’t yet decided what it’s doing with Sham El Nessim.

IT’S A BIG NEWS DAY: The tourism industry just got a huge boost as Moscow moves to allow direct flights to Red Sea hotspots. It’s just what the doctor ordered heading into the summer season. We have chapter and verse on this and much more in this morning’s news well, below.

It’s interest rate week: The Central Bank of Egypt was originally scheduled to meet to review rates this Thursday. Masrawy reports that the meeting could now be moved to Wednesday, 28 April or pushed to Sunday, 2 May.

What’s the monetary policy committee going to do when it meets? All 14 analysts and economists we spoke with are calling another hold, as we report in our customary poll, below.

***CATCH UP QUICK with the top stories from Thursday’s edition of EnterprisePM:

  • Minapharm will manufacture Sputnik V in Egypt. The news comes as a report suggests Egypt lags some frontier and emerging markets in vaccine rollout.
  • Banks can start issuing deposit-backed electronic currencies under new CBE regs.
  • Love from the EBRD: Kom Ombo solar plant and green cities are getting USD 144 mn in EBRD funding.

CORRECTION: We incorrectly stated that the EBRD’s USD 114 mn financing for the Kom Ombo solar plant would increase the plant’s capacity by 200 MW. The plant’s total capacity is 200 MW. The story has since been updated on our website.


** So, when do we eat? Maghrib prayers are at 6:28pm in the capital city today. You’ll have until 3:44am to finish up sohour.

PSA- It’s going to be hot today, with the mercury rising to 36°C this afternoon. It will cool off to 19°C overnight, according to the national weather service. We’re in for nice weather Monday through Wednesday, with daytime highs of 28-33°C, before a five-day heat wave hits just in time for the weekend, according to our favourite weather app.

MARKET WATCH-

US investors are up in arms about a Biden administration plan to double the top capital gains tax rate for the wealthiest of Americans, with the Financial Times writing that Wall Street types believe the move “would probably reduce tax revenues over time and would discourage people from allocating money towards long-term investments.” The move would hike the top end of the capital gains tax to 43.4%. “Howls of protest echoed from Wall Street to Silicon Valley, as financial lobbyists geared up to influence legislation,” the salmon-colored paper notes.

The Biden tax plan contributed to a day to forget for cryptocurrencies on Friday, which saw more than USD 200 bn erased from the market during a large wave of selling, CNBC reports. Bitcoin fell 7.3% to fall below the USD 50k handle for the first time since Match, while Ether — the second-largest cryptocurrency — fell 8%.

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

Finance Minister Mohamed Maait is addressing AmCham’s Pre-Annual General Meeting on Tuesday to discuss Egypt’s economic reform beyond the pandemic. The event will be held virtually at 2pm CLT. Members and non-members alike are welcome to attend. Register here.

Transport Minister Kamel El Wazir will address the House of Representatives on Tuesday to discuss his ministry’s plan to overhaul the country’s transportation system, according to the House agenda. El Wazir’s planned appearance in parliament comes after multiple calls from MPs to question the minister or otherwise hold him accountable for the recent streak of railway accidents, including the Qalyubia train crash, which left 23 dead and another 139 injured.

Check out our full calendar on the web for a comprehensive listing of upcoming news events, national holidays and news triggers.

enterprise

POLL

ENTERPRISE POLL- CBE to leave rates on hold at upcoming meeting

ENTERPRISE POLL- The CBE is expected to leave rates on hold: Rising commodity prices and higher US yields will likely prompt the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) to leave interest rates on hold at its next meeting,, according to an Enterprise poll. All 14 analysts and economists we surveyed expect the central bank to continue its cautious approach and hold off on making further cuts until the second half of the year, particularly as a number of emerging market central banks hiked rates last month.

Where rates currently stand: The CBE’s overnight deposit rate stands at 8.25% and the lending rate is 9.25%, while the main operation and discount rates are at 8.75%. The central bank slashed rates by 400 bps last year, including an emergency 300-bps cut in March to protect the economy from the fallout from covid-19, and two 50-bps cuts in September and November.

The two key factors: commodity prices and rising interest rates: “We’re looking for rates to remain on hold as the situation that existed in the last meeting prevails, namely elevated rates globally and high commodity prices,” EFG Hermes’ Mohamed Abu Basha told us.

Inflationary pressures have so far remained muted: Inflation has risen only slightly during the first quarter despite a backdrop of rising global commodity prices. The annual urban rate has increased from 4.3% in January to reaching 4.5% in March. This figure is still short of the central bank’s 7% (± 2%) target range.

But this will likely change in the months ahead: “Inflation will gain momentum in the next couple of months as the impact of rising global commodity prices trickles down to the general economy,” Beltone’s head of research Alia Mamdouh told us. The restocking of essential food items amid the global increase in raw material prices will likely cause increased upward price pressure on foodstuffs — and will inform the CBE’s decision to leave rates unchanged, said CI Capital’s Sara Saada. Meanwhile, Sigma Capital head of research Abou Bakr Imam says the central bank will not make any policy changes until it assesses the impact of the increased public sector wages due to come in in July, which he expects will cause inflation to accelerate.

The base effect could mitigate this: Naeem Brokerage’s Allen Sandeep notes that a favorable base effect could keep price growth in check. “While we do expect a pick-up in monthly inflation going forward, the favorable base year factor should absorb most of it even considering the possibility of a fuel price hike in July,” he said.

Higher US treasury yields could still tempt foreign investors Westwards: Rising commodity prices and cheaper US treasuries (as a result of higher yields) “will trigger the CBE to maintain a high real interest rate environment in order to maintain portfolio attractiveness, which is key to the stability of the EGP given the slow recovery in the tourism sector,” said Mamdouh.

Recent rate hikes by EM central banks could add a bit of pressure to leave things unchanged in Egypt: “We’ve seen some emerging markets start to hike rates. In that respect, we think the CBE will continue with its stance of holding rates steady,” Abu Basha said. Policymakers across 37 EMs delivered five net interest rate hikes last month, signaling a switch in direction from monetary easing for the first time since February 2019, we noted last week.

The CBE has nurtured Egypt’s position as one of the world’s most lucrative carry trades in the face of rising US yields. Any rate cuts at this point could dim the attractiveness of sovereign debt to foreigners, says independent analyst Hany Aboul Fotouh. As pressure on sources of foreign currency remains “significant” and as the economy still faces “pandemic-related distortions” and structural weaknesses, the central bank will likely champion the role of foreign portfolio investment to finance the nation’s current account deficit, Prime Holding’s Mona Bedeir said. But with the prevalence of “global volatility and weak prospects of foreign portfolio flow momentum,” the CBE is unlikely to cut rates at the moment, said CI Capital’s Saada. Emerging markets last month saw daily outflows for the first time since October as the uptick in US treasury yields this year dented the EM asset rally and raised the spectre of a repeat of 2013’s so-called Taper Tantrum.

How good is Egypt’s carry trade? HC Securities’ Monette Doss, who sees the MPC leaving rates unchanged, benchmarks us against Turkey, which she estimates has a real yield of c. 4% on 19-month treasuries. “This compares to a real yield of 3.9% on Egypt’s 12M T-bills,” she says, “given a 15% tax rate for US and European investors and our inflation forecast of 7.5% over the next 12 months.”

For now, the CBE will continue to rely on subsidized lending to boost activity in certain sectors, Suez Canal Bank’s Mohamed Abdel Aal said. Many companies in Egypt currently have access to loans at sub-market rates backed by the CBE, under initiatives that were introduced in recent years and expanded when the covid-19 pandemic took hold — including EGP 200 bn in loans to factories and EGP 50 bn in support to the hard-hit tourism sector.

So, when can we expect the next rate cut? Not until the late summer/early fall is the loose consensus. The CBE will likely continue holding rates at least until August, with the first cut likely to take place after Egypt makes it back onto JPMorgan’s emerging-markets government bond index, Arqaam Capital’s Noaman Khalid says. Reinclusion on the index could attract up to USD 4.8 bn of passive inflows into Egyptian bonds and a potential 5% appreciation of the EGP against the greenback, Rand Merchant Bank economist Neville Mandimika recently said.

Towards the end of the year seems the most likely window for cuts, say Beltone’s Mamdouh and Pharos Holding’s Radwa El Swaify, who sees “more reasons for CBE to make no interest rate cuts and keep any potential cuts to later this year.” But there is a slim chance that the rate cut might be brought slightly forward if growth remains muted. “If the economic recovery remains slow-going, policymakers may opt to loosen monetary conditions sooner,” Capital Economics’ Jason Tuvey wrote in a research note.

ECONOMY

Growth forecasts are (largely) holding steady

Egypt’s economy is expected to close out the state’s 2020-2021 fiscal year having grown 2.9%, according to a Reuters poll of 23 economists. This is a very slight upwards revision from the 2.8% from an earlier Reuters poll in January but is still short of the 3.3% projected by the government and is significantly lower than the 6% pre-covid forecast.

The familiar culprit: “We expect slashed tourism to be the main drag on the economy” in the fiscal year ending 30 June, said Garbis Iradian, chief economist at the Institute of International Finance. Monthly tourism revenues are estimated to have plunged by as much as 92% during 2020 due to the pandemic, with Egypt having recorded USD 14 bn in foregone revenue.

A tourism recovery in next fiscal year will see growth return to a 5% clip before accelerating to 5.5% in FY2022-2023, according to the poll. The government’s draft budget approved last month forecasts growth between 5.4% and 6% in FY2021-2022.

Annual urban inflation for the current fiscal year is expected to come in at 4.8%, down from the 5.6% predicted in the last Reuters poll in January, putting it just below the amended target rate of 7% (± 2%). Inflation is then expected to accelerate to 6.4% in FY2021-2022, then 6.2% in FY2022-2023. “We expect inflation to normalize around a long-term average of 9%,” said HC Securities’ Monette Doss, who expects a surge in prices fueled by increased consumption and a rise in international oil prices will drive prices upwards. Food prices saw a monthly uptick of 1% last month off the back of Ramadan, pushing annual headline inflation to 4.8%, while annual urban inflation stayed at 4.5%.

Interest rates are expected to hold steady until at least the start of FY2021-2022 this July, most analysts said (echoing the results of our own poll above), with the Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee expected to decide to cut rates by 25 bps during its meeting on 17 June, with a possibility of a further rate cut to 8.25% in 2022, respondents said.

The EGP could ease slightly against the greenback, reaching EGP 15.90 / USD 1 by the end of 2021, and dropping further to EGP 16.20 by the end of 2022 and EGP 16.74 by the end of 2023.

TOURISM

Spasibo, druz’ya

Russian tourists are finally set to return to Egypt’s Red Sea resort towns after a six-year hiatus, after President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in a phone call on Friday to resume all flights between Egypt and Russia, according to an Ittihadiya statement. The decision to resume flights comes as Russian inspections determined that Egypt’s airports meet all the necessary security standards to keep tourists “safe and comfortable,” the statement says.

What’s the timeline? The statement doesn’t clarify when travel between the two countries will resume, but Civil Aviation Minister Mohamed Manar Anba told El Hekaya’s Amr Adib over the weekend that they could be back within the next 7-10 days (watch from minute 55:25 — runtime: 3:14). Russia’s Interfax news agency reported last week that charter flights could return on 10 May.

As many as 1 mn Russians could visit Egypt this year, said head of the Red Sea Chamber of Hotel Establishments Alaa Akel. Egypt used to see 3 mn Russian tourist arrivals per year, bringing in some USD 3.5 bn in annual tourism revenues, according to EFG Hermes’ Mohamed Abu Basha.

It’s been a long time coming: Russia banned direct flights to Red Sea resort towns after the 2015 Metrojet crash in Sinai, which killed all 224 passengers and crew members on board. Russian security and safety experts have since inspected Egypt’s airports several times, and El Sisi has personally raised the issue with Putin in the past. Reuters also had the story.

ALSO FROM THE TOURISM WORLD- Gov’t stipulated minimum charges at Egypt’s hotels are back: Five- and four-star hotels in the country will be required to charge a new minimum rate set by the government, the Tourism Ministry said in a statement Friday. As of 1 November, the ministry will require all five-star hotels to charge a minimum of USD 40 per night, while four-star establishments must charge at least USD 28 per night.

The ministry had been mulling setting minimum charges in the industry back in 2017 and a committee formed at the time had recommended setting different rates in each city, suggesting imposing a minimum rate in Cairo that was nearly threefold the minimum charge in tourist cities such as Luxor and Sharm El Sheikh. The proposal was rejected by Cabinet — led at the time by Sherif Ismail — in early 2018 on the grounds that no other country follows a similar policy.

COVID WATCH

More AstraZeneca, Sinopharm jabs are inbound

Another batch of Chinese vaccines will arrive in Egypt on 27 April, Health Minister Hala Zayed said at a presser yesterday (watch, runtime 40:49). A cabinet statement yesterday said that 900k doses of the Sinopharm vaccine will arrive this week. Egypt has so far received 680k doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, and the Madbouly government hopes to eventually obtain 40 mn shots from the Chinese company.

Egypt is also set to get its hands on 2 mn jabs from the Gavi / Covax scheme in the first week of May, followed by another 2 mn doses, the minister highlighted. As many as 4.5 mn doses of the AstraZeneca jab are planned to arrive through Covax by the end of May, as part of a 5 mn-dose batch that is promised to be delivered to Egypt.

The Health Ministry reported 912 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 884 on Friday and 872 on Thursday. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 221,570 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 39 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 12,998.

Vaccinated tourists could be allowed to enter Egypt without presenting a PCR or being subject to quarantine, under proposed measures by members of the House Tourism Committee, the local press reports.

Tourism workers in Sharm El Sheikh and South Sinai will finish getting their jabs this Thursday, Zayed noted in the press conference. The ministry began inoculating tourism workers on 6 April.

And some 60% of the registered medical staff have now been vaccinated, she added, noting that only 115 of the overall fatalities among the frontline workers contracted the virus inside isolation hospitals.

The third wave has yet to overwhelm the nation’s hospitals: The government has allocated 50% of the country’s hospitals to take covid-19 patients, Zayed said, adding that some 47% of the ICU beds are empty. She said Egypt is witnessing “regular” increases that don't exceed 10% in daily cases.

And the situation in Sohag is not out of control, the minister said on El Hekaya yesterday, noting that another 50 ICU beds will be set up there. She denied the situation in Sohag is “worrying.” Fever and chest hospitals in Sohag were 80-90% full last week amid a spike in cases in the governorate. Reuters also made note of the story.

COVID AROUND THE WORLD-

India is facing an unimaginable covid-19 surge: India reported 346,786 new infections yesterday in what was the third day running that the country had set a world record for new infections, CNN reports. The skyrocketing numbers are threatening to overwhelm the country’s healthcare system, which is running low on ICU beds, medicine, oxygen and ventilators.

FUEL PRICES

We’re going to pay more at the gas pump for the first time since 2019

The government raised fuel prices by 3-4% over the weekend following a rise in global oil prices during the first quarter, the Oil Ministry said in a statement. The hike — the first since July 2019 — means that motorists will now pay an extra EGP 0.25 per liter for 95, 92 and 80 octane fuel. As of Friday:

  • 95 octane has risen 3% to EGP 8.75 per liter, up from EGP 8.50;
  • 92 octane has risen by 3.3% to EGP 7.75, from EGP 7.50;
  • 80 octane has risen by 4% to EGP 6.50, from EGP 6.25.

Prices of mazut fuel oil for use in factories will remain fixed at EGP 3.9k per tonne, while diesel prices will also stay put at EGP 6.75 per liter, the ministry said.

These rates will remain in effect throughout 2Q2021 and are subject to change when the fuel pricing committee next convenes at the end of June to decide on rates for the third quarter. Fuel prices had remained unchanged over the past year after being lowered in April 2020.

Why the move? The price increase aims to mitigate pressures on the state budget as global oil prices inch up, unnamed sources at the ministry told the local press. The state coffers could face additional costs worth USD 10 bn if global oil prices continue to stand at USD 65 per barrel, which is USD 5 above the USD 61 average price assumed in the state budget.

This comes as the government moves towards a complete elimination of fuel subsidies: Egypt has been gradually phasing out fuel subsidies since 2016 as part of the IMF-backed economic reform program. The collapse in global oil prices last year helped subsidy expenditure to plunge 77% in FY2019-2020 and 45% during 1H FY2020-2021 to EGP 8.4 bn, putting the government on track to beat its EGP 28.2 bn spending target this fiscal year.

INVESTMENT WATCH

Altus’ Akh Gold could invest USD 200 mn if it strikes gold in Egypt

Altus Strategies could invest as much as USD 200 mn in Egypt if it makes a commercially viable discovery in its new gold exploration concessions, Reuters reports. Akh Gold, a subsidiary of the Naguib Sawiris-backed company, landed four exploration licenses for nine blocks in the Eastern Desert in February and expects to spend several mn USD on exploration activities. The company will expand its technical team and conduct remote sensing and mapping operations in its concessions, it told the newswire. The UK-based company was awarded the licenses as part of a gold exploration tender the Egyptian Mineral Resources Authority (EMRA) launched in March of last year which saw 82 exploration blocks given to 11 companies.

“Top-tier potential”: Egypt could become one of the continent’s gold hotspots should a few of the companies make commercial discoveries, Altus’ CEO Steven Poulton told Reuters. “If you get to a point where several discoveries are made, Egypt could be one of the largest gold producers in Africa … It had top-tier potential,” he said.

Does EMRA need to make more changes to its mining regs? Amendments to the Mineral Resources Act, approved in 2019, have received plenty of praise from investors for offering friendlier terms, including scrapping an unpopular royalty-sharing system. However, Nordana Chairman Sami El Raghy (Centamin’s founder and former chairman) suggests that continuing to rely on tenders for concessions “limits the chances of any gold boom,” and that “successful mining countries” operate on a first come, first served basis. According to Raghy, these countries set up a framework with qualification standards and investor rights, and investors pour in accordingly.

We’ll know soon enough: Oil Minister Tarek El Molla has said that Egypt will issue a new gold exploration tender every four months, but it is unclear when the next tender is scheduled to kick off.

CRYPTO

Egyptian traders ❤️ BTC?

Egypt’s large unbanked population, its high volume of remittances, and economic uncertainty caused by covid-19 could be driving accelerated Bitcoin trading, with peer to peer trading hitting an all time weekly high of EGP 3.2 mn in 1Q2021, according to a video report by trading platform LocalBitcoins (watch, runtime 8:06).

Crypto traders under the age of 34 are mainly responsible for driving increased trading volumes in Egypt, the report claims.

The Central Bank of Egypt is open to crypto — provided it can regulate it. The bank has warned that trade in BTC is illegal but has announced plans to potentially issue its own digital currency.

Why is the CBE so cautious about crypto? Look no further than Turkey, where the collapse of a second crypto exchange, Vebitcoin, last week has left regulators vowing to crack down on the industry, as many Turks have sought to put their money in crypto as a hedge against skyrocketing inflation, Bloomberg reports. The exchange cited deteriorating financial conditions for its closure and is now being investigated. Authorities have banned the use of cryptocurrency as a recognized form of exchange starting 30 April and have said more regulation is in store. Earlier last week, authorities launched an international manhunt for the CEO of another failed Turkish crypto exchange, Thodex, who fled the country owing users USD 2 bn, Bloomberg reports.

SUEZ CANAL

Ever Given owner appeals ship’s seizure by Egypt

The owner of the mega container ship that blocked the Suez Canal in March has appealed a decision by an Egyptian court that allowed authorities to seize control of the vessel earlier this month. The ship’s protection and indemnity insurer UK Club said Friday that the ship’s Japanese owner Shoei Kisen had filed an appeal with the Ismailia court on Thursday seeking to overturn the decision, which earlier this month saw the ship arrested by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA). The SCA is demanding that it is paid USD 916 mn in compensation for the six-day blockage before it releases the ship, a figure that UK Club has called “extraordinary large” and unsubstantiated.

Doubts over the court order, SCA demands: UK Club said that the company had to appeal to the court as the issue wouldn’t be resolved without the continued involvement of the Egyptian courts. “The appeal against the arrest was made on several grounds, including the validity of the arrest obtained in respect of the cargo and the lack of supporting evidence for the SCA's very significant claim,” it said. The SCA’s USD 916 mn price includes a USD 300 mn “salvage bonus” and another USD 300 mn for “loss of reputation.” The claim also does not factor in the cost of salvaging the Evergreen-chartered vessel, which “owners and their hull underwriters expect to receive separately.”

When can we expect to hear from the court? A hearing on the appeal could be held on 4 May, the statement said.

DIPLOMACY

US, EU signal they may be ready to step in on Ethiopian dam

Is Khartoum pushing for international intervention in GERD despite Addis Ababa’s objections? The EU should push the parties to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) conflict to return to the negotiating table, Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas told the head of the EU Delegation in Sudan, Robert van den Dool, in a meeting over the weekend. The statement from the Sudanese ministry was otherwise scant on details, saying only that Abbas briefed van den Dool on the latest negotiations and on Khartoum’s position on the issue. The minister also had a similar conversation with the US Charge d’Affaires Brian Shukan to stress the danger of failing to reach an agreement with Ethiopia over GERD, according to a separate statement.

The EU is ready to mediate if formally requested, and is “willing to raise its level of participation in the negotiations” if the negotiating parties want that, EU Ambassador in Cairo Christian Berger said in an interview with Al Akhbar picked up by the local press. In the meantime, the EU “supports” the current African Union-led negotiations, with the Democratic Republic of Congo at the head of the AU.

New US overseer? The US has appointed veteran diplomat Jeffrey Feltman to act as a special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Friday. GERD will be one of Feltman’s top priorities, Blinken said.

Reminder: Ethiopia has said “no” to bringing in the US, EU and UN as international mediators, insisting instead that the negotiations continue under the sponsorship of the AU. Addis Ababa reiterated its opinion last week that the best way forward would be to take the talks back to the AU.

IN OTHER DIPLO NEWS-

MBZ in Cairo: Security issues in the region — including GERD — was the main topic of discussion between President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed during talks in Cairo yesterday, Ittihadiya Spokesperson Bassam Rady said in a statement. Both sides also discussed boosting bilateral cooperation especially in economy and investment in various fields, as well as the two countries’ efforts to curb the fallout of the covid-19 pandemic pandemic. Zayed last visited Cairo in December.

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry wrapped his African tour over the weekend, after making the final stop in Tunisia on Thursday. Shoukry met with Tunisian President Kais Saied to discuss the GERD impasse and pass along a letter from President Abdel Fattah El Sisi debriefing Saied on the latest developments, and Egypt’s position on the matter. The foreign minister already made stops in Kenya, Comoros, South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger, and Senegal.

Supporting water desalination, digital transformation, and the green recovery are among the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s priorities in Egypt in the near future, EBRD President Odile Renaud-Basso said following a meeting between Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly and over her two-day visit to Cairo last week, according to a cabinet statement.

Libyan Foreign Minister Najla El Mangoush has accepted an invitation to visit Egypt for talks, spokesperson Ahmed Hafez said in a statement. The invitation was made by Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry during a phone call at the weekend, during which the ministers discussed recent efforts to stabilize Libya following years of conflict.

enterprise

ENTERPRISE+: LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

Covid-19 dominated proceedings on the talk shows last night: Health Minister Hala Zayed gave an extended interview to El Hekaya’s Amr Adib (watch, runtime: 27:11), while Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi covered yesterday’s presser on the latest developments on vaccines and the third wave.

Some 5 mn doses of the Chinese Sinovac covid-19 vaccine will be locally produced within two months at the factories of state-owned Vacsera, before bringing the total to 40-60 mn per year, Zayed told Adib. The two joint manufacturing agreements Vacsera signed with China last week are for local manufacturing and technology transfer, she said.

The Health Ministry plans to launch mobile vaccination points in some neighborhoods, malls and metro stations, she said. The government will soon finish the mega clinics project in Cairo International Convention Centre to provide 10k-15k doses every day through 96 clinics, and similar projects will follow in Alexandria, Upper Egypt and the Nile Delta. We could soon have as many as 350 operational centers as part of a plan to accommodate 112k individuals per day.

Sputnik V vaccines to be available before year-end: The manufacturing of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine will begin by November and the first doses will be available in December, Wafik Bardissi, chairman and CEO of Minapharm, told Lamees El Hadidi’s Kelma Akhira (watch, runtime: 7:38). Minapharm last week announced that it would produce 40 mn doses of Sputnik per year. Egypt is still in negotiations to produce doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine through Vacsera, which will open in Sixth of October City with a production capacity of 40-60 mn doses per year, the minister told Adib. The country is also trying to speed up contracting procedures for 10 mn of the vaccine, the cabinet said in a statement.

Why the low vaccination rates among doctors? Osama Abdel Hay, secretary general of the Egyptian Medical Syndicate, attributed the low rate of vaccination among medical staff to widespread worries over vaccines' safety, but he noted the debate is getting less tense (watch runtime 11:30). Zayed said yesterday that around 60% of the country’s medical workers have so far received a covid-19 vaccine. He also referred to late arrival of vaccines at some hospitals and issues in the registration system which dropped some registered names.

El Hadidi also highlighted increasing covid-19 cases amid relaxed measures including the return of Ramadan tents and shisha in many places (watch, runtime 4:36). She noted that this would lead to increasing pressure on hospitals. The government had recorded almost 65k breaches of the closing times by shops and restaurants during the period from 1 December 2020 to 23 April 2021, Local Development Ministry Spokesperson Khaled Kassem told the show (watch, runtime 4:50).

In non-covid coverage, MBZ’s visit to Cairo got attention: Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed’s visit to Cairo also received coverage on El Hekaya last night (watch, runtime 11:03). Ittihadiya spokesperson described the Egyptian-UAE relations as “extended and deep,” highlighting the high-level cooperation in regional issues including Libya's. Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa had his own analysis of the visit (watch, runtime: 4:59 I 3:54).

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

Archaeology is dominating the conversation in the foreign press this morning: The New York Review of Books writes that the spate of recent archaeological discoveries and museum openings is causing a revival of the “Golden Age of Egyptology” while the Washington Post says that the recently discovered temple of a previously unknown Ancient Kingdom queen at Saqqara sheds light on a little understood period of the Egyptian history. Meanwhile, the New York Times says that Egyptology is enjoying a “big moment” but questions whether it will be enough to revive the country’s tourism industry.

El Sisi speaks to the German press: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi gave an extended interview to Die Welt and answered questions about his government’s record on human rights, migration and regional questions over Palestine and Iran.

Ghost Ship 2.0? Egyptian authorities have finally permitted a stranded Syrian seafarer to head home after he was held on board his vessel for four years due to the ship’s owners running into debt and having expired certification. (BBC)

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

EFG Hermes Corp Solutions has received some EGP 500 mn-worth of loan requests from brokerages looking to finance margin trades for their clients after the Financial Regulatory Authority recently moved to allow non-bank lenders to bankroll equity purchases on margin through brokerages.

Other things we’re keeping an eye on this morning:

  • National Housing Company sold its Meridien Heliopolis hotel for EGP 605 mn to IMEX International, according to a bourse statement (pdf).
  • China State Construction Engineering Corporation is in talks with Banque Misr to obtain an EGP 3.5 bn loan to help fund its construction of five residential towers in New Alamein.

PLANET FINANCE

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It’s a big earnings week stateside this week: More than a third of the S&P500’s constituents are set to report 1Q earnings this week, including Apple, Tesla, Amazon and Alphabet, the Wall Street Journal reports. A total of 181 companies will publish their figures, starting with Tesla on Monday, with Microsoft and Alphabet following on Tuesday.

Ant Group could be forced to hand over consumer data to a new Chinese state-backed credit-scoring company set up to wrest control of tech companies’ data as Beijing takes an increasingly hard line against them, the Financial Times reports, citing unnamed sources with direct knowledge of the matter. To downplay government intervention, the Alibaba affiliate is reportedly looking to lead the new entity, which would serve rival financial institutions including state lenders, a former banker who formerly worked with Ant Group tells the newspaper. For now, Chinese regulators have given tech companies a month to clear up anti-competitive practices following the antitrust ruling against e-commerce giant Alibaba which saw it slapped with a record USD 2.8 bn fine.

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+0.7% (YTD: +20.9%)

Up

DFM

2,625

+1.0% (YTD: +5.4%)

Up

S&P 500

4,180

+1.1% (YTD: +11.3%)

None

FTSE 100

6,938

-% (YTD: +7.4%)

Up

Brent crude

USD 66.11

+1.1%

Down

Natural gas (Nymex)

USD 2.73

-0.7%

Down

Gold

USD 1,777.80

-0.2%

Down

BTC

USD 50,379

-0.5% (as of midnight)

The EGX30 fell 0.4% on Thursday on turnover of EGP 923 mn (29.6% below the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net buyers. The index is down 2.3% YTD.

In the green: SODIC (+4.8%), Orascom Development (+2.4%) and Orascom Financial (+1.7%).

In the red: AMOC (-1.6%), CIB (-1.2%) and Fawry (-1.1%).

AROUND THE WORLD

Lebanon’s central bank governor hit by another scandal: Switzerland’s attorney general is investigating allegations that Lebanon’s central bank governor Riad Salameh and his brother embezzled more than USD 300 mn of central bank money, the Financial Times reports.

Tensions are rising on the Israel-Gaza border after a weekend of clashes in Jerusalem between Palestinians and far-right Israelis yesterday prompted a volley of rocket fire into Israel from militant groups in Gaza, the Associated Press reports.

CALENDAR

25 April (Sunday): Sinai Liberation Day (formal observance, no holiday).

27 April (Tuesday): Finance Minister Mohamed Maait will address AmCham’s Pre-Annual General Meeting to discuss Egypt’s economic reform beyond the pandemic.

29 April (Thursday): National holiday in observance of Sinai Liberation Day.

29 April (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates. (timing TBC based on national holiday)

1 May (Saturday): Labor Day (national holiday).

2 May (Sunday): Coptic Easter Sunday (holiday for Coptic Christians, still unclear whether it will be a banking holiday)

3 May (Monday): Sham El Nessim (date of the national holiday still TBC)

13-15 May (Thursday-Saturday): Eid El Fitr (TBC).

16-19 May (Sunday-Wednesday): The Arabian Travel Market (ATM) takes place in Dubai.

25-28 May (Tuesday-Friday): The World Economic Forum annual meeting, Singapore.

1 June (Tuesday): The IMF will conduct a second review of targets set under the USD 5.2 bn standby loan approved in June 2020 (proposed date).

7-9 June (Monday-Wednesday): Egypt Petroleum Show, Egypt International Exhibition Center, New Cairo, Egypt.

17 June (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

17-20 June (Thursday-Sunday) : The International Exhibition of Materials and Technologies for Finishing and Construction (Turnkey Expo), Cairo International Conference Center.

24 June (Thursday): End of the 2020-2021 academic year (public schools).

26-29 June (Saturday-Tuesday): The Big 5 Construct Egypt, Cairo International Convention Center, Cairo, Egypt.

30 June (Wednesday): 30 June Revolution Day.

30 June- 15 July: National Book Fair.

1 July: (Thursday): National holiday in observance of 30 June Revolution.

1 July (Thursday): Large taxpayers that have not yet signed on on to the e-invoicing platform will suffer a host of penalties, including removal from large taxpayer classification, losing access to government services and business, and losing subsidies.

19 July (Monday): Arafat Day (national holiday).

20-23 July (Tuesday-Friday): Eid Al Adha (national holiday)

23 July (Friday): Revolution Day (national holiday).

5 August (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

9 August (Monday): Islamic New Year.

12 August (Thursday): National holiday in observance of the Islamic New Year.

12-15 September (Sunday-Wednesday): Sahara Expo: the 33rd International Agricultural Exhibition for Africa and the Middle East.

16 September (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

30 September-2 October (Thursday-Saturday): Egypt Projects 2021 expo, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo, Egypt.

30 September-8 October (Thursday-Friday): The 54th session of the Cairo International Fair, Cairo International Conference Center, Cairo, Egypt.

1 October (Friday): Expo 2020 Dubai opens.

6 October (Wednesday): Armed Forces Day.

7 October (Thursday): National holiday in observance of Armed Forces Day.

12-14 October (Tuesday-Thursday) Mediterranean Offshore Conference, Alexandria, Egypt

18 October (Monday): Prophet’s Birthday.

21 October (Thursday): National holiday in observance of the Prophet’s Birthday.

28 October (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

1-3 November (Monday-Wednesday): Egypt Energy exhibition on power and renewable energy, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo, Egypt

1-12 November (Monday-Friday): 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), Glasgow, United Kingdom.

29 November-2 December (Monday-Thursday): Egypt Defense Expo

13-17 December: United Nations Convention against Corruption, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

16 December (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

May 2022: Investment in Logistics Conference, Cairo, Egypt.

27 June-3 July 2022 (Monday-Sunday): World University Squash Championships, New Giza.

Note to readers: Some national holidays may appear twice above. Since 2020, Egypt has observed most mid-week holidays on Thursdays regardless of the day on which they fall and may also move those days to Sundays. We distinguish below between the actual holiday and its observance.

Enterprise is a daily publication of Enterprise Ventures LLC, an Egyptian limited liability company (commercial register 83594), and a subsidiary of Inktank Communications. Summaries are intended for guidance only and are provided on an as-is basis; kindly refer to the source article in its original language prior to undertaking any action. Neither Enterprise Ventures nor its staff assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy of the information contained in this publication, whether in the form of summaries or analysis. © 2021 Enterprise Ventures LLC.

Enterprise is available without charge thanks to the generous support of Commercial International Bank (tax ID: 204-891-949), the largest private-sector bank in Egypt; EFG Hermes (tax ID: 200-178-385), the leading financial services corporation in frontier emerging markets; SODIC (tax ID: 212-168-002), a leading Egyptian real estate developer; SomaBay (tax ID: 204-903-300), our Red Sea holiday partner; Infinity (tax ID: 474-939-359), the ultimate way to power cities, industries, and homes directly from nature right here in Egypt; CIRA (tax ID: 200-069-608), the leading providers of K-12 and higher level education in Egypt; Orascom Construction (tax ID: 229-988-806), the leading construction and engineering company building infrastructure in Egypt and abroad; and Act Financial (tax ID: 493-924-612), the leading activist investor in Egypt; and Abu Auf (tax ID: 584-628-846), the leading health foodmaker in Egypt and the region.